I’m curious—what do you think is the biggest key to getting published? Talent? Timing? Luck?
Early on, I probably would have said talent. I mean, it makes sense, right? You write a good book, you get published. Simple.
Except…that’s where timing comes in. Because as most struggling writers know by now, you can write a good book, but if your timing is off, you still might not get published. For example—you might have recently written a vampire book. And your vampire book might be darn good. But, the timing is such that vampire books are a tough sell these days, especially those featuring bloodsuckers of the sparkly variety. So yes, bad timing can definitely throw a bump in the road to publication. Or even a mountain.
As for luck, well…I think it’s basically just a matter of talent and timing coming together. Like, you might call it lucky if you happened to write a fabulous dystopian book and got it on sub at the very beginning of the big dystopian craze.
And while I still think all of these things are important, I’m going to argue that a fourth quality crushes the first three when it comes to predicting who will get published and who won’t. And that quality is…
Yep, good old-fashioned stick-with-it-ness. Think about it.
The more you write, the better your writing gets, and the more likely you are to write an outstanding book. And not only your writing improves; your craft improves—things like your ability to plot, to up the stakes, to create three-dimensional characters. Also, the longer you write, the more likely you are to eventually hit that perfect timing.
What this boils down to? Basically, if you keep writing, you radically increase your chances of getting published.
But don’t just take my word for it. Every Tuesday for the next several weeks, read the stories of many Apocalypsies—debut 2012 YA and MG writers—who did not just whip out their very first books and get publishing contracts on the spot.. No, these authors ended up with publishing deals because of their perseverance. Hopefully, they will inspire you and remind you that, no matter how many rejections come your way, there is one key element to being a successful writer that trumps all the others: You Never, EVER Give Up.
I’ve been writing my entire life. I wrote my first book in the fourth grade for one of the young author’s contests and won second place. My prize was a Mickey Mouse pencil. I was hooked. That was 1993. Fast forward twelve years. I sent out my first official query letter in 2005-2006. It was for a contemporary YA called Sherbet Skies. I got a lot of great feedback from agents and editors, but no offers. I felt like I was moving in the right direction. So I worked on something new. That book bombed with beta readers. I cried ate a lot of chocolate. Nearly two years after Sherbet Skies, I finally went out with something new—a paranormal YA called Possession.
My request rate was good. Partials were turning into fulls. This was it!
But then it wasn’t.
Just one more book, I told myself. I’m this close. Writer friends were landing agents and getting book deals. My turn was coming. But then I had a baby. And my husband went back to school full-time. Unsurprisingly, writing got pushed to the back burner, which was probably for the best. Looking back, I know I wasn’t ready. I still cringe when I read Sherbet Skies. And Possession had its hokey plot moments. I’m so very glad they weren’t published, but at the time, I was devastated.
Spring of 2010, when my daughter was a year old, the writing bug hit again. I wrote a younger YA I called The Loom and when the rough draft was completed, I set it aside for the recommended couple of weeks. I had planned on taking a writing break while that book sat, but I couldn’t stay away from the computer. So I started playing around with some ideas. And suddenly this book—this new kickass book!—consumed me. I wrote like crazy. I lived, breathed, dreamed New Book. I finished the rough draft in six or seven weeks. I took another six weeks for revisions. And finally, in October, I sent ALTERED out into the world.
That first week, I received five requests. All the partial requests turned into full requests. And my agent, Joanna, read and offered rep within two days. A part of me couldn’t believe it. To have an agent read that fast and offer representation after so many years seemed like a dream. Like if I poked it too hard it’d pop.
I accepted Joanna’s offer that following week and we immediately started revisions. Because of the holidays, we waited to submit to editors. Altered went out January 17th and we had our first offer February 11th.
It took five years and fourteen books to get an agent. And only a few months to get a book deal. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe I’d survived the journey! What if I would have given up after the first book? Or the fifth? Or the thirteenth? That’s why you can’t quit. Ever. If you love it enough, if you can’t imagine doing anything else with your life, keep writing. Or making music. Or whittling wood. Whatever your talent/passion is!
Because you never know when this close will turn into a YES.
Thanks so much, Jenn, for sharing your story! If you get a chance, check out Jenn’s blog and her amazing book ALTERED (Dollhouse meets Prison Break? I’m all over it!) Make sure to tune in next week, when another Apocalypsie will share her inspirational road to publication tale!
And remember, no matter what you do: Don’t. Give. Up.
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